#GuestReview: Ring of Spies by Alex Gerlis (@alex_gerlis) @canelo_co @cobaltdinosaur #RingOfSpies #ARichardPrinceThriller #damppebbles

Ring of Spies Cover“As the war approaches its end, Prince once more has to risk everything.

Berlin, 1939: A German intelligence officer learns a top agent is quickly moving up the British Army ranks. He bides his time.

Arnhem, 1944: British paratroopers have been slaughtered in one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War. A shell shocked officer is convinced: the Germans knew they were coming.

But who betrayed them?

Back in London, Richard Prince, detective and spy, is approached by MI5 about a counterintelligence operation. Information is leaking and British troops are dying. Prince has to stop it, and crack the suspected spy ring at all costs. But in the world of espionage nothing is as it seems…

The latest WWII espionage thriller from Alex Gerlis is perfect for readers of Robert Harris, John le Carré and Alan Furst.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am handing the keys over to my guest reviewer, Ryan, who is going to share his thoughts on Ring of Spies by Alex Gerlis. Ring of Spies is the third book in the Richard Prince Thriller Series and was published by Canelo on 15th October 2020. Ryan chose to read and review a free eARC of Ring of Spies but that has in no way influenced his review.

Over to Ryan…

Ring of Spies is the first book I have read by Alex Gerlis, it is the third book in the Richard Prince series and it is wonderful! Ring of Spies pulls you straight into the second half of the Second World War. The mission to take Arnhem is a difficult one for the Allies, a successful mission would likely bring forward the end of the war, but when the Allies attack the German’s defence is much stronger than expected. Had the Germans been pre-warned or was it just a coincidence?

Richard Prince is a wonderful character. He starts the book as a detective in Lincolnshire – a much more relaxed existence than his previous work as a spy behind enemy lines. When MI5 need an outsider to find the German Spy in their midst, then Prince is soon pulled back into espionage and the murky world of the different Military Intelligence Sections. I was impressed by how quickly I felt I knew the characters. Despite being the third book in the series, Ring of Spies can easily be read as a standalone. 

Alex Gerlis has clearly done his research for this book. He cleverly interweaves historic facts from the war with the story to lend it a credibility and depth that made this book standout from others in the genre. 

The story is told from multiple perspectives, following Richard Prince as he searches for the German agent, the German Spy “handler” in Berlin, and the unidentified agent in central London. The different perspectives provided a clear ebb and flow to the story, allowing the reader to understand the decisions made and the consequences of those decisions. The investigation isn’t an easy one and the author makes the characters work hard for clues, follow red herrings and suffer misfortune. But do they find their spy before the war ends?  That would be telling 😉

Ring of Spies is a fantastic historic detective/spy thriller that will be well appreciated by many and is a must read if you have an interest in the Second World War period. Wonderful writing, excellent characters and a storyline that will pull you into the immersive world of espionage.

Ryan chose to read and review a free eARC of Ring of Spies. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Ring of Spies by Alex Gerlis was published in the UK by Canelo on 15th October and is available in digital formats with the paperback to follow next year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Kobo | Goodreads |

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Alex_Gerlis (c) Ealing GazetteAlex Gerlis is the author of the acclaimed Spies series of four Second World War espionage thrillers which are noted for their detailed research and intricate plots and feature two great adversaries: the British spymaster Edgar and his Soviet counterpart Viktor. The television/film rights for The Best of Our Spies have been bought by a major production company.

Born in Lincolnshire, Alex was a BBC journalist for nearly 30 years. He lives in west London with his wife and family and three black cats, a breed which makes cameo appearances in his books. He’s a lifelong supporter of Grimsby Town, which has provided some preparation for the highs and lows of writing novels. When asked if he has worked in the field of espionage he declines to answer in the hope some people may think he has.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Road Kill: The Duchess of Frisian Tun by Pete Adams (@Peteadams8) @NextChapterPB @cobaltdinosaur #RoadKill #DaDaDetectiveAgency #damppebbles

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“Cataclysmic events have occurred in the decorous upper middle class enclave within Southsea, Portsmouth, on the south coast of England.

But what were the circumstances that contributed to this violent clash involving a Sherman tank and a bazooka? The strange occurrence is Investigated by Lord Everard Pimple, a naive, upper class twit who not only inadvertently opens a can of worms, but has an introduction into the world of womanly wiles.

Everard’s life is about to blow up like an atom bomb… he just doesn’t know it yet. But after the dust settles, will he still be standing?”

Hello and a very warm weekend welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be handing the keys over to my guest reviewer, Ryan, who will be sharing his thoughts on Road Kill: The Duchess of Frisian Tun by Pete Adams. Road Kill was published in paperback and digital formats by Gumshoe – A Next Chapter Imprint on 19th August 2020. Ryan recieved a free eARC of Road Kill but that has no influenced his review.

Road Kill marks the first book as we step away from Pete Adams’ ‘Kind Hearts and Martinets’ series. In some ways it is a big step, in other ways small. Imagine a person with long legs taking small steps – that’s the kind of thing!

The first thing you note is a gentle shift in the characters. No longer are we are in the orbit of Jack/Jane/Dick Austin and the Community Policing department in Portsmouth. We are certainly in the same universe, the same city in fact but our points of reference for the majority of this book are new characters. Pimple is as inadvertent a main character as you will ever meet, a court reporter for the local Portsmouth newspaper, given a tip-off about a big story and following it in the hope of his big break.

The one thing that you will not get in this book is travel. The author cleverly sets almost three-quarters of the book in a single house in Frisian Tun; the road Jack and Amanda Austin reside in and which saw so much military firepower in the previous series! The story unfolds as the occupants of the house try to explain to Pimple and his glamorous colleague, Cecilia Crumpet, what has happened and their part in it. This approach to storytelling is great fun, with the personalities of the different storytellers becoming more pronounced throughout the story.

Everyone will have their own favourite. Whether it’s Aedd, the geography teacher with the wandering accent, the wandering hands of Georgiana Lovebody – the synchronised swimming teacher, the Professor daydreaming about goatherds, or Dame Pimple herself! In truth, the bickering, the personal relationships and slow destruction of the room add a huge amount to the story and make it a fun read.

One other change I would comment on is that Pete Adams has utilised a different writing style for this book compared to the previous books in the ‘Kind Hearts and Martinets’ series. Throughout the book the author makes asides to the reader directly. Whilst this starts as a surprise, it almost becomes its own subplot allowing the author to ponder on characters and their behaviour without interfering with the story’s narrative.

This is the first book of Pete Adams’ DaDa Detective Agency (Jack/Jane/Dick and Amanda/Duck’s) retirement venture, and it feels like we are in for another fun ride. If you enjoyed the first series then DaDa should be savoured.

Ryan chose to read and review an eARC of Road Kill: The Duchess of Frisian Tun. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Road Kill: The Duchess of Frisian Tun by Pete Adams was published in the UK by Next Chapter Publishing on 19th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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Pete Adams is an architect with a practice in Portsmouth, UK, and from there he has, over forty years, designed and built buildings across England and Wales. Pete took up writing after listening to a radio interview of the writer Michael Connolly whilst driving home from Leeds. A passionate reader, the notion of writing his own novel was compelling, but he had always been told you must have a mind map for the book; Jeez, he could never get that.

Et Voila, Connolly responding to a question, said he never can plan a book, and starts with an idea for chapter one and looks forward to seeing where it would lead. Job done, and that evening Pete started writing and the series, Kind Hearts and Martinets, was on the starting blocks. That was some eight years ago, and hardly a day has passed where Pete has not worked on his writing, and currently, is halfway through his tenth book, has a growing number of short stories, one, critically acclaimed and published by Bloodhound, and has written and illustrated a series of historical nonsense stories called, Whopping Tales.

Pete describes himself as an inveterate daydreamer, and escapes into those dreams by writing crime thrillers with a thoughtful dash of social commentary. He has a writing style shaped by his formative years on an estate that re-housed London families after WWII, and his books have been likened to the writing of Tom Sharpe; his most cherished review, “made me laugh, made me cry, and made me think”.

Pete lives in Southsea with his partner, and Charlie the star-struck Border terrier, the children having flown the coop, and has 3 beautiful granddaughters who will play with him so long as he promises not to be silly.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Saint Justice by Mike Grist (@michaelgrist) @cobaltdinosaur #SaintJustice #AChristopherWrenThriller #damppebbles

W1“Hundreds of human cages hidden in the desert. One man with nothing to lose.

Christopher Wren pulls off I-70 after three weeks on the road and walks into a biker bar in Price, Utah. An arbitrary decision he’s about to regret.

The bikers attack Wren, leave him for dead and steal his truck.

Now he’s going to get it back.

From a secure warehouse in the desert. Ringed with fences. Filled with human cages.

As Wren digs deeper, a dark national conspiracy unravels and the body count mounts, but one thing is for sure.

They picked the wrong guy to teach a lesson.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I’m handing the keys to the blog over to Ryan who is going to share his thoughts on Saint Justice by Mike Grist. ‘Ryan reviews’ are like buses, you wait AGES for one and then three turn up all at once 🤣! Look out for more reviews from my guest reviewer in the coming week. Ryan received a free digital copy of Saint Justice but that in no way influenced his review.

OK, so I think most of us can agree that vigilante books are typically good fun. I think there are a few sub-genres of vigilante fiction; the dark do-gooder, the fallen law enforcer, the twisted and broken genius and of course, the undefeatable action hero. Mike Grist has done something wonderful with Christopher Wren and that is bring all four together into one of the most memorable characters I have met for some time.

Christopher Wren is no longer a CIA operative. He has gone from their thinking – more likely to be arrested than called a hero. His hatred of the downtrodden being treated poorly and taken advantage of drives him to protect others and he picks fights with people, groups and gangs so much bigger than himself. But he is not alone, as throughout his past he has collected a group of people who when he needs it, will come to his aid. But will this be enough against one of his biggest challenges yet? Wren’s backstory is drip fed through flashbacks and plot twists. A complex and sometimes morose character, you would probably not want to sit next to him on a long haul international flight, but you’ll definitely want to read about him!

I know there are some readers who like realism in their books and that’s great, but that’s not what you get with the indestructible but self-destructing hero of Saint Justice. Whether it is fighting brawls against the odds, inspired leaps of logic or driving like it’s Grand Theft Auto,  Saint Justice will have you hanging onto your hat and loving every minute of it.

Mike Grist’s writing was perfectly suited to the cut and thrust of this thriller, taking you to the edge and then leaving you hanging on the precipice for just the right length of time. His style leaves you wanting to read just one chapter more, so be prepared to be glued to your copy!

If you like a survivor, if you like redemption and if you like action then Christopher Wren is the character for you. A fantastic read that I could not put down. If this is book one then sign me up for the next three as this could become one of my favourite series.

Ryan chose to read and review an free digital copy of Saint Justice. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Saint Justice by Mike Grist was published in the UK on 10th June 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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Mike GristMike Grist is the British/American author of the Christopher Wren thriller series. For 11 years Mike lived in Tokyo, Japan, exploring and photographing the dark side of the city and the country: gangs, cults and abandonedplaces. Now he writes from London, UK, about rogue DELTA operator Christopher Wren – an anti-hero vigilante who uses his off-book team of ex-cons to bring brutal payback for dark crimes.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: The Collector by John Maher #InkubatorBooks @cobaltdinosaur #TheCollector #damppebbles

The Collector John Maher“They say human life is the most precious thing. The Collector doesn’t agree.

When world renowned archaeologist Philip Carlton suddenly and unexpectedly commits suicide, the police are called to investigate. Heading up the investigation is Detective Lucy O’Hara, a Forensic Linguist – and she immediately sees something is wrong with the suicide note. In her gut, she knows this was cold-blooded murder.

Battling sceptical superiors and the Irish establishment, Lucy digs for the truth and begins to uncover a shadowy trade in ancient artifacts led by a mysterious figure known only as ‘The Collector’.

As Lucy works to uncover his identity, she soon realises she is up against a ruthless mastermind who is systematically eliminating anyone who might lead her to him. But Lucy won’t give up and soon The Collector turns his attention to her…

The Collector – the first in a gripping new series featuring Detective Lucy O’Hara.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Emma has given me the keys to the blog today so I can share my guest review of The Collector by John Maher with you. I received a free eARC of The Collector but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Collector is the first book in the Lucy O’Hara series and I really enjoyed it. I don’t remember reading a book about a forensic linguist before, and I was intrigued to see what was involved. Lucy O’ Hara is a detective determined to get her career back on track, and when her linguistic skills sense that a suicide note may hold some clues that hint at foul play, she is thrown into a deadly game.

The joy of this book is that against the background of murder and traded ancient artifacts, the characters were the stars.  Whether this was the excellent Lucy O’ Hara, the mysterious Sullivan parachuted into the investigation for unclear reasons, the deeply malevolent Collector, the cold hitman, or multiple suspects, each had a distinctive and well-defined character and often a hidden motive…

Lucy O’Hara stands out though (as you would imagine in Lucy O’ Hara book one!). A detective in need of rehabilitation with a strong sense of justice. She has a need to prove herself and overcome demons in the past, which must be done whilst leading her team through parts of the investigation with a determination that belies her shattered confidence. Her team blends colleagues from different parts of Ireland and you can sense the unity and belief growing, as the story unfolds. The author uses location well to denote changes in the pace of the story, whether the focus is on Lucy’s personal challenges or the investigation.

As I mentioned earlier the blurb mentions Forensic Linguists and some may be put off by this, worrying about a potentially complex read. I can reassure you that it wasn’t. Maher leads the reader through each of the deductions in such a simple way that you don’t feel intimidated. In fact, I thought the author could have made more of this unusual skill and I’m looking forward to finding out how more breakthroughs will come from this skillset in book two!

I would happily recommend The Collector to anyone looking for a strong story, with well-written characters and a different approach from the main detective. John Maher’s writing pulls you into an Ireland populated with strong characters, malevolent villains from across Europe and intelligent and complex police officers. A strong starting novel in what could become a fan favourite series.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Collector. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Collector by John Maher was published in the UK by Inkubator Books on 5th July 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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John MaherJohn Maher has published five novels and a collection of short stories. He has won national awards for radio play and short story with RTE in Ireland. His novel, The Luck Penny, was shortlisted for debut novel on BBC Radio 5.

A former teacher and lecturer, he holds a Phd from the School of Oriental and African Studies (London).

He lives in a small Irish village, between the Atlantic and the Irish Sea, from which he steals away, from time to time, to visit the world outside the island.

THE COLLECTOR will be his first novel published with Inkubator Books.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Mama’s Gone by Leopold Borstinski @borstinski @cobaltdinosaur #GuestReview #MamasGone #TheLagottiFamily

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“When children grow up, the parents must die

California gang leader Mary Lou has built a criminal empire while her adult children are desperate for their mother’s attention and love.

As her mental faculties wane, Alice and Frank Jr must acknowledge their mother is not the woman she once was and that they need to step up and take the helm, despite the stark differences between them.

But their sibling rivalry blinds both of them to their weaknesses which threatens the family when the Russian mob moves into the state. How can they fend off those attacks while fighting to decide who will lead the family now their dear Mama’s gone?”

Hello my bookish friends. I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today to my guest reviewer’s stop on the Mama’s Gone blog tour. Mama’s Gone by Leopold Borstinksi is the fourth book in The Lagotti Family series and was published earlier this week on 18th March 2019. I’ll hand straight over to my guest reviewer, Ryan (or ‘the husband!’).

Starting a post on damppebbles is always tricky. It’s a great blog [Emma: You have to say that!] and I always worry whether my review is going to get it a bad reputation? But after reading Mama’s Gone, a mob crime thriller, I’m not so worried! I’m considering up and leaving damppebbles, setting up my own blog, making some money out of the marks and building my own blogging mob empire.

Mama’s Gone by Leopold Borstinski is effectively the fourth book in the Lagotti Family series. However, having read it, I would not have known this. It reads well as a standalone with plenty of back story and character history. The book moves at a rapid pace, starting with a shooting before bringing out what has gone before. The four main characters are each clearly cast; hard working Alice, lazy Mama’s boy Frank, reliable Bobby and of course Mama. Mama runs a traditional mob; drugs, prostitution and gambling but with two children growing up as rivals to be the successor and Russian mobs moving in, what will happen? Will the traditional mob be victorious as it has been so many times in the past or is a new dawn coming?

I must admit by the end of the book I didn’t really like any of the characters. Normally I like a good anti-hero but the author does a great job of showing the multiple flaws of each character. Too much loyalty in one, a ruthless streak for succeeding in another and what some would call a pathological streak in yet another. The book cleverly draws the story forward quickly with each small battle a character faces adding to the story. As we near the crescendo the characters not only have to fight with the outside world but also inside the family as Mama slowly loses her grip on the helm of the family organisation.

I have to say I liked the story. It read well as a standalone and bought some distinct characters into being. The author wasn’t afraid to let his characters live and die by their bloodthirsty, ruthless decisions. Decisions of a mob character rather than your typical reader and watching this happen from the other side of a kindle screen worked well! If crime is a genre you enjoy this will be an easy read for you and I recommend it to all.

However, as I reach the end of this review I can confirm I enjoyed the book but I’m not brave enough to be a mob boss, so I will just thank everyone for reading and quietly creep out before anyone notices!

Mama’s Gone by Leopold Borstinksi was publsihed in the UK on Monday 18th March 2019 and is available in eBook format: | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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Leopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website |